That sound you hear emanating from Chapel Hill is Steve Kirschner ripping his hair out...again.
Last night on Roy Williams Live, the Tar Heel coach went on another one of his rants which has become a annual rite of passage in basketball season. In this one, Roy expressed dissatisfaction with members of the Ram's Club selling their tickets behind the bench to UNLV fans in Las Vegas.
The intoxicated fan yelling behind the bench, Roy Williams can shrug that off. The exuberant fan who pushes a team manager in celebration, Williams can understand how that happens. Selling prime tickets to the opposing team, Williams isn’t so forgiving.
During Williams’ radio show Monday hosted by Jones Angell, Williams called UNC fans who hocked their seats in Las Vegas to UNLV fans out.
“I am not friendly with anybody else on the other team and for some of our fans to get their tickets through the Ram’s Club and sell their tickets to UNLV boosters that are sitting right behind our families, I don’t like that,” Williams said. “And if the shoe fits, wear it. I don’t care who it is, I’ll tell the sucker face-to-face, I do not like that, will not like that and don’t ever forget it…”
As he continued, Williams went as far as to tell those fans who sell prime UNC tickets to simply stay home.
“Do not come back to my games. Don’t act like you’re supporting us,” Williams said. “Don’t act like you’re supporting us by showing up. If all you’re going to do is sit there and be so negative and yell negative things and say negative things beside one of our coaches’ wives…”
Roy did say that “99 percent” of the UNC faithful were at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the right reasons during a 90-80 loss to UNLV that led to the Tar Heels’ fall from the nation’s No. 1 ranking.
But in case Williams didn’t get his point across the first time on his radio show, he offered a reiterating parting shot.
“… it bothers me more about some sucker – and I don’t care, if it ticks somebody off, that’s fine – if you sell your tickets that you get from the Ram’s Club to somebody else and they come in cheering for UNLV, then I’ve got no use for you,” Williams said. “And that’s as blunt as I can put it.”
Good Ol' Roy.
If you have been paying attention Roy has been harping on Ram's Club members for years. He doesn't like that they show up late, really don't cheer that loudly and leave early. During the early games, you might not even see them show up at all. In 2008 for a game versus NC State in Chapel Hill, someone sold their tickets which happened to be directly across from the Tar Heel bench. In the postgame press conference Roy was not happy he had Wolfpack clad fans directly in his line of sight and said he was going to find the people who owned the tickets to those seats and buy them. Generally speaking Roy complains, at least once a season, about attendance and when fans show up, leave and what not.
While it is probably not a good idea to call your own fans out, it is important to understand where Roy is coming from. Roy spent 15 years at Kansas and anyone who has ever been to Allen Fieldhouse knows the place rocks during a home game. Having had that experience Roy probably wishes(correctly so) that the Dean Dome would be similarly raucous for games. Now, the Dean Dome crowd does have its moments such as playing Ohio St. in Chapel Hill in November, 2006 or any game versus Duke. However the "wine and cheese" reputation that Sam Cassell tagged UNC fans with all the way back in 1992 is tough to shake. Roy's frustration with members of the Ram's Club is somewhat justified because the home crowd can be such an advantage. Instead you get a large group of people who don't really bring the noise as much as you see at other schools.
In the instance Roy is referring to here, I am having trouble finding much wrong with his basic point. If you are a member of the Ram's Club with tickets behind the bench, you probably shouldn't sell them to a fan from the opposing team. Conversely if you are the fan of an opposing team seated in a section reserved for UNC fans, you should probably be less vocal than you might be otherwise. The point is, selling your tickets to an opposing fan and putting them within earshot of your team's bench is a bad move for a fan and certainly does not help the team. Now if Roy is upset at UNC fans yelling "negative things" behind the bench, I think he needs to develop thicker skin though if you are within earshot of the bench you probably should exercise some discretion about the things you say, especially to your own team.
In essence Roy is on the right side of the issue. The problem you have here is whether (1) he should be complaining about it publicly and (2) the fact Ram's Club members sink a ton of coin into the University. Roy's filter or lack of one has created these little fires as long as he's been at UNC. Putting him on a call-in show where he is interacting with the fans directly might not be the best choice but given the money involved for Roy and Learfield Sports, it probably is never going away. Unfortunately for Steve Kirschner, Roy doesn't self-censor his comments on much of anything. There are times he opts to stop talking about something and maybe this should have been on of those cases. Like it or not, Roy wears most of his feeling on his sleeve which can be both refreshing and terrifying all at the same time.
The rub here is the people Roy is complaining about are big money donor who pour millions of dollars into the athletic program. While Roy can pine for a better atmosphere in the Dean Dome and beg ticket holders to show up early, cheer loud and stay to the bitter end, the current seating system will never change. Simply look at this benefits chart from the Ram's Club. Even getting consideration for basketball season tickets will cost you $5000 per year. You other options are $17,160 annually or $500,000 over five years. This is where the lower level seats come in and in most cases the people who are dropping that kind of cash for Dean Dome seats are you old money, blue blood variety who spend more time at the game discussing their recent trip to the Bahamas than the game itself. It is what it is and no amount of complaining Roy does about Ram's Club members will ultimately matter.
I do think fans who have season tickets should be more circumspect about who they give access to and their commitment to being more active at the game. There are many of us who would show up, cheer loudly and cleanly for UNC but don't have the means to do so. Selling your tickets to an opposing fan and putting them close to the UNC bench strikes me as a particularly egregious "fan sin" to commit given players' and coaches' families also sit there. While making a public issue of this shows Roy's PR blindspot a bit, at least he doesn't have Wanda sitting there yelling at opposing fans like the wife of a certain coach eight miles down the road.